Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Thinking Outside the Box

Thinking outside the box is thinking outside traditional boundaries. . Management guru Mike Vance has claimed that the use of the nine-dot puzzle in consultancy circles stems from the corporate culture of Walt Disney . The phrase relates to a traditional management problem called the nine dot puzzle. The object is to connect the nine dots with only four lines. (solution at end of post)

Houston, We Have a Problem

Remember the movie Apollo 13, where the survival of the crew literally depended on fitting the square central module carbon dioxide scrubber canisters into the round holes of the lunar module unit and unless a way could be found to use the square ones the carbon dioxide levels would reach poisonous levels before the crew could get home. The solution came in the form of jerry-rigged duct tape, suit hoses and cardboard to make the connection. Their problems still were not over as they had to shorten the trajectory back to the earth with damaged navigational equipment and had to use the sun and crescent of the earth as reference points for their second rocket burn back.

In the world of sports John Madden redefined how people relate to football with his X's and O's on the telestrator. He made the technical aspects of the game more accesssible to the average viewer. He made the viewer more connected with the humor he injected in his telestrator such as steam vent lines off a bald player on the sidelines and circling old school barbeque at the cities he visited on the road. Known for his zingers on the air, perhaps his most profound quote was:"Coaches have to watch for what they don't want to see and listen to what they don't want to hear".

Olympian Gary Hall Jr. took the monotony of training laps in a pool outside the box devising his own training schedule which included spear fishing,boxing yoga and racing with swimmers from other countries at his base camp. Bucking the traditional Olympic development training model, he brought the training to his home on terms that worked for him so that he was able to compete successfully at an elite level while navigating through the meticulous monitoring needed with managing his diabetes.

In football, Redskin coach Jim Zorn has a reputation for being outside the box with unusual training methods such as the use of both Slip 'n Slides and Dodge Ball drills in his football practices. He once bought in a baseball player to teach his quarterback how to slide. He has manged to continue to earn the respect of outside of the box players such as Chris Cooley. He took a very unorthodox approach to the NFL code of private critique and public praise when he called out some players that were not playing up to snuff. Being candid about his players' performance level is something that is important for a unit to respect its leader in high risk situations according to Thomas Kolditz head of the psychologic testing
at West Point. In an office setting calling out staff is in public is not constructive. The critical difference is that shared risk mandates that decisions made on the football or battlefield have to happen in a very narrow time frame and the physical well being of your teammates and fellow soldiers depends on tight integration and performance of the unit. The Redskins record this year is not a
reflection on the coaching as much as the influence of upper management and injuries. An organization is ultimately only as good as its top brass.